Letter from Albert Gallatin donated to Friendship Hill historic site
April 23, 2016 12:04 AM
National Park Service.
Photo of a letter dated March 14, 1823, that Albert Gallatin, while U.S. minister to France, wrote to J.D. Garesche, Esq., to explain a trade agreement between France and the United States. West Overton Village & Museums near Stockdale, Westmoreland County, gave the letter to the Friendship Hill National Historic Site near New Geneva, Fayette County, which is the home that Gallatin built.
Friendship Hill, Albert Gallatin's home in Fayette County.
VWH Campbell Jr. Pittsburgh Post Gazette Photo: Freindship Hill, Pa. 04-24-2007.Side of home that faces towards the highway and away from the river. Friendship Hill, Albert Gallatin's home in Fayette County has been an elegant Historic home without furnishings. This has now changed, for the next 2 years it will host thefurniture of the Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee home in Arlington, Va. which is being rehabilitated by the National Park Service. Original Filename: VWHC 008515 MAG Gallatin Ho.jpg
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Friendship Hill National Historic Site now possesses a letter that Albert Gallatin sent to an attorney in 1823 while serving as the U.S. minister of France. The acquisition came almost by surprise after a museum in neighboring Westmoreland County found it in its own archives.
The letter inside the original envelope represents one of the few documents bearing Gallatin’s signature that the National Park Service has at Friendship Hill — the house Gallatin built in Springhill Township, Fayette County, three miles north of Point Marion. The original will be displayed for a few days then be replaced by a facsimile inside Friendship Hill’s visitor center.
Gallatin built his sprawling house in three major phases over the course of his political career, from the 1786 to 1824. The Swiss immigrant arrived in America in 1780 and bought the Friendship HIll property along the Monongahela River in 1786. He would serve as the U.S. secretary of the treasury during the Thomas Jefferson and James Madison administrations and was instrumental in arranging financing for the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the War of 1812.
From 1816 through 1823, he served as U.S. minister to France and wrote the letter in his final year in that position.
National Parks in Pa series starts Sunday
The National Parks Service turns 100 this year and Post-Gazette reporters have been visiting NPS sites in Pennsylvania in order to write stories about them. On Sunday the Post-Gazette will present the first of a series on the sites, which range from the Edgar Allan Poe house to the Gettysburg Battlefield to the Appalachian Trail to the Flight 93 Memorial.
The Friendship Hill Association, the site’s nonprofit volunteer organization, acquired the original letter and envelope on March 1 from the West Overton Village & Museums — another historic site, this one near Scottdale in Westmoreland County, where Henry Clay Frick lived the first 30 years of his life. The village and museums also focus on the local heritage of agriculture, coal and coke and whiskey distilling.
Still in France, Gallatin sent the letter dated March 14, 1823, through the French Postal Service to J.D. Garesche, Esq. to give “directions to his acting council in the port city of La Rochelle regarding maritime trade,” the park service says.
Brian Reedy, a park ranger who is chief of historical interpretation and visitor services at Friendship Hill and the Fort Necessity National Historic Site also in Fayette County, said the one-page letter represents a typical bureaucratic one in which Gallatin clarified details of a recent trade agreement between the United States and France. As Gallatin explained, it allowed French officials to review the manifests of American ships docked in French ports.
Friendship Hill has a limited number of documents and books bearing Gallatin’s signature “so it is nice to get something like this,” Mr. Reedy said.
The letter was discovered two years ago while West Overton volunteers were sorting through voluminous archives that had accumulated there ever since the nonprofit began operating in 1928, said Stephanie Koller, West Overton registrar. The discovery generated excitement because “you rarely come in contact with something that close to history on the larger scale,” she said, noting that the letter is 193 years old and “in excellent condition.”
West Overton had the Senator John Heinz History Center’s Museum Conservation Center to do some restoration work to remove acid buildup then frame the letter in acid-free double matting and transparent cover. Digital pictures also were taken and shared with Friendship Hill.
Rabb Collection LLC also authenticated Gallatin’s signature. In accepting the letter, the park service agreed to reimburse West Overton’s restoration expenses, Mr. Reedy said.
A ceremony to celebrate the National Park acquistion will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Friendship Hill, when its summer schedule begins, with visitor-center hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The property’s 10 miles of trails are open dusk to dawn year round.
“We’d like folks to come out and see it during the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service and share resources of the past that are unique to Pennsylvania,” Mr. Reedy said.
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.